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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 23, 2009 10:00am-11:00am EDT

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the war that the government has promoted since shortly after seymour hirsch wrote his expose on the milan massacre in 1969. the stories and the photographs shock the country. which had to come to grips with the fact that u.s. soldiers had killed babies, young children, mothers and grandmother's. the military then and since has insisted that the milan massacre was an isolated incident, it was an aberration. war crimes in vietnam were all isolated incidents. committed by few rogue units, not a con occurrence or a systemic -- common occurrence or a systemic problem. soldiers came home from vietnam and tried to tell the public differently, but ultimately, they were either disbelieved or written off as liars,
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fabricators, and traitors by the government and much of the public. over time, that notion took hold. that other than milea, and a few other publicly noted war crimes, that atrocities weren't a significant problem in vietnam, but behind the scenes, the army kept a secret file that showed otherwise. atrocities weren't in fact limited to a few isolated incidents. they were common and they were systemic. the records were compiled by the army staff. after cy hirsch exposed the massacre, the army assembled an internal task force to collect reports. army investigators pulled together allegations of atrocities that had been reported in termly to army investigators, that crossed the desk of congressmen, that were announced at public forums, or appeared in the inside papers, usually the inside, of
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newspapers. over five years, they collected an estimated 9,000 pages of evidence. there were investigation reports, witness reports, suspect interviews, statistical summaries that went up and down the chain of command. from the ph.d battlefields to te white house. it was an oppressive undertaking, but unlike melei, there would not be any public accounting. the war ended, but the files repained secret. in the early 1990's, they were quietly declassified, stored in obscurity, stored in washington in a big warehouse. if you've seen raiders he of the last ark, think of the last scene where the records are carried into an efor must
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warehouse and put on an anonymous shelf where it's lost to the future, so it took another decade before a handful of scholars and journalists discould have had the existence of these records. one was nick terse, who researched them for his dissertation and when he finished, he thought a few of the cases might be newsworthy, even long after the fact. so he cents an e-mail to the los angeles times in 2005, where i was a washington investigative editor and it was forwarded to me. we joined forces then to investigate the origins of the records, the fate of them, to track down scores of veterans and officials, to visit viet he nam, and to enter the data from the files and the spreadsheets. what we found was that the army's own investigations had substantiated cases with more than 300 allegations. torture, massacre, rape, murder, coverups.
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another 500 allegations had been closed as unfounded or closed due to insufficient evidence. but a closer look, i discovered that many of them in fact had been with confirmed, a quarter had actually been confirmed, but were classified otherwise. the confirmed cases included an account by jamie henry of what happened when his company entered a small hamlet in central vietnam. on february 8, 1968, now this is a months before the milei massacre, here is what he told investigators in this one statement happened next. this is a statement that -- 10-page statement that appears in the files. i sat down in a hooch, started smoking a cigarette. it was a break an over the horn came a statement by the lieutenant of 3rd platoon, saying that the 3rd platoon had rounded up 19 civilians, which were women and children.
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the lieutenant asked the captain what should be done with them? the captain asked the lieutenant if he remembers the operation order. that came down that morning. and he repeated the order, which was, kill anything that moves. the lieutenant with that signed off. i was a little shook at the statement, because i thought the lieutenant might do it. i got out of the hooch and started walking over to the captain. as i watts walk over to him, a young girl, about 19, was pulled out of a hooch. she was naked, so i may have had the assumption that she had been raped or molested or some such thing, which was very common. she was brought out to where the civilians were squatting, which was approximately 15 meters from the hooch. she was thrown to the ground. the men around the civilians opened fire and all on automatic beings or at least it seemed all on automatic. it was over in a few seconds.
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the massacre was reported as soon as he returned to the united states. he didn't report it when he was in vietnam, but tears a con belief there first of all that if you report it, a war crime that you might take a bullet in the back, and the captain was aware of what had happened. so there was a sense among the men in that troop that there was nobody to report it to there. well, when he returned to the united states, as soon as he got back, he reported it to an army investigator. who accused him of lying. but the army eventually unknown to jamie henry launched a nearly four year investigation. they contacted 100 members of his company. they confirmed every one of the allegations he made about the massacre and about a number of murders leading up to it. yet the investigation was never disclosed to the public. no one was ever prosecuted. and the first that jamie henry
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knew that the investigation had taken place was when we called him in 2005. the unconfirmed cases include several reports that members of a military intelligence detachment in central vietnam were torturing detainees on a regular basis. with water rag, which is a version of water boarding, similar to what we've heard more recently, with electricity, by wiring up detainees to field phones, and by beating them and -- with sticks and with their hands. our investigation uncovered records showing that the army, more than a dozen men from that unit, had tried to report it, report the torture to the inspector general's office, while they were in vietnam. it's pretty courageous to do that. the inspector general sent a representative to the base, who immediately began interviewing the men who wrote the letters
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and threatening them with prosecution. several years later -- so the torture continues. several years late every, the army, while investigators looking into another case came across the evidence of torture, and in fact, confirmed that it took place. hundreds of incidents over a 19-month period. they identified 20 suspects, 20 u.s. suspects, eight of them confessed, and yet no one was prosecuted, no one -- the army never publicly disclosed its findings. our investigation in fact, would find that relatively few of the cases in the files resulted in courts-martial and just over a dozen men were convicted and sentenced to any jailtime. among those convicted was a soldier, a sergeant, who while out on a reconnaissance mission with his team, detained two
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teenage duck herders, an irrigator in their rice paddy, they were unarmed, going about their daily business and executed them. dropped a grenade, so that they couldn't be identified, dropped weapons around them, so they would look like enemy combatants, and turned them in -- turned in their deaths as the deaths of three enemy combatants. he was at the time engaged in a competition at the highest body count. in that case, the army did court-martial him because the people in the hamlet were so outraged over what happened, that they walked to the base and demanded at the gates, demanded there be investigation. so he was court-martialed and in fact, was found guilty. he was among the convictions. his sentence was a several hundred dollar fine and reduction in rank. no jail sentence. he was allowed to re-enlist, six months later and stayed if vietnam until near the end of
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the war. not included in the confirmed or unconfirmed cases was a private letter from an anonymous soldier that was written at general westmoreland in 1970. by then, westmoreland had moved from running the war in vietnam to being the army chief of staff in the pentagon. it was under him that this records collection effort began. he received a letter, a private letter from an anonymous soldier. let me read you from it. dear general mes west poland, im a -- westmoreland, i am a u.s. g.i. in germany and i am worried about the wrong we are doing there to the vietnamese people and the g.i.'s myself. i was in the 9th division as a grunt.
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i know i had information about things as bad as melie and i don't want to tell any congressman for fear of hurting anyone in the army and fear of losing rank. his fear esplanades was intense pressures troops had to get body counts. he was referring to army kills. the army collected the numbers to measure military success. there was a growing perception in the success and the military ranks that the figures were greatly inflated by commanders who wanted to win promotions and justifying an unpopular response. in response, its then secretary of defense required actual bodies to be counted. an exaggeration wasn't the anonymous soldier's concern. worse than making up numbers, he said, troops were killing innocent civilians to meet the army's demand for bodies. his letter continued. number one killer in the 9t
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9th division was a rule that said shoot if they run. not just prisoners or suspects, or guys with weapons, but anybody. i suppose it was ok. if it hadn't been army of the republic of vietnam, surrounding a village to search and some guy are run away from the blocking force, this rule meant g.i.'s were supposed to shoot any dude that ran and lots of them did. the gunships were hover over a guy if the field until he got scared and would run and they would za pp them. most of all the times, we found no weapons or nothing on them. number two killer was the snipers. most of the time they'd just shoot any vietnamese they would say in the daytime, no weapons, no v.c. documents, just the dead vietnamese at about 300 or
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400 yards, was automatically a v.c. just as soon as he falls. i heard the battalion commander laugh about the sniper commanders and saying pretty soon there wouldn't be any nice farmers left. people, high officers, did not care about the vietnamese so long as the big body count maybe them look good to the general and all of these incidents, honestly hundreds of them, there is some young officer or sergeant who gave the order and some enlisted man who did it randy one of them could be charged with murder if anyone ever reports it. but it wasn't their fault, it was the fault of the high officer who told them to do it that way. the secretary of the army sent the letter to the general counsel's office for analysis. the analysis concluded the writer was sincere and his allegations were plausible. the army launched an investigation but not into the allegations. the investigation to identify the writers so that they could
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fine him before he went to the press or to any member of congress. in 1972, in one of the rare relatively rare incidents in which the media conducted an independent investigation, of war crime allegations of civilian killings, kevin buckley of "newsweek" traversed the same territory as the concerned sergeant had during his tour of duty. concerned sergeant is how he signed the last of three letters. kevin buckley visited hospitals, talked to military officials, talked to residents. and his investigation concluded that thousands of civilians had been deliberately killed and reported as v.c., killed in action, during the combat offensive heralded by the military as a great success. because army leaders decided not to investigation the hundreds of allegations in those letters, by the anonymous soldier, or by
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kevin buckley, the case was never included in the official count of army war crimes. the officially named and numbered cases that were in the files. thinks letters were in a file, but the official count, they weren't included in the official count. for that reason, this archive should not be viewed as a complete accounting, but rather a window into a much bigger problem. these are the cases that made it past all the obstacles into an official report somewhere that found its way into a pentagon office of a secret group of officers who were collecting them. i tried to find the anonymous soldier to find out if in fact they had contacted him. they identified him by name at the end of the file, which is where it ends. then i followed him from where the records said he lived, his house, his father had died, he had inherited the house, he sold it, i followed him from there to a homeless shelter in columbus, ohio.
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where he lived after going through money with a drug and alcohol problem and i followed him from there to the streets of san antonio, texas, and eventually found him in a military cemetery down there, so i was never able to determine if in fact they had found the right man and if in fact they had talked to him. one thing i want to make clear, is that the records do not show that most u.s. soldiers committed war crimes. and in fact, hundreds tried to report them. that's what it shows. the hundreds more tried to report them than we ever knew about. others told the truth to investigators, when asked about it. and i interviewed men from across the political spectrum, who were outraged over the war crimes they witnessed. the atrocities that they witnessed, who were angry that their commanders and u.s. military didn't do more to stop them or to change the rules of engagement that led to the atrocities.
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now, most of the men, when i found them, were still alive, thankfully. most were willing to talk about what happened. some seemed to have been expecting my call for decades. others seemed relieved to have somebody who their secret they could talk to. at long last. my interview with r.d. miller was typical. the man nearest carter t his lieutenant, who was involved in the massacre, carter in the moments leading up to the massacre would have been his radio telephone operator. we know from records that robert d. miller gave investigators a -- highly detailed account of carter's role in the slaughter. he now lives in pittsburgh. i dialed his number and leave a message that only hints at the subject. with he calls back, at my wife's urging, he knows dick and i want to talk about the massacre.
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i remember distinctly what happened miller says, it has bothered me the rows of my life. his recollection tracks his sworn statement, even in the finer details, though he hasn't read it since the day he wrote it -- day he signed it. there were 19 vietnamese, one white haired old man and the rest, children hand women. carter radioed ray and then gave the signal to start shooting, miller says. the rest of the scene has been playing in his mind on a continuous loop ever since. i see the babies, the little kids, the naked woman, and i have nightmares, he says. i feel guilty. i didn't do anything. it was just horrendous. there was no one to report it to. they were your officers. that was as high as you could go. until the massacre, he had never imagined there could be something worse than dodging bullets. or watching a buddy die. combat was bad and losing your friends was bad, he says, but these were innocent people.
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miller says he became an alcoholic in the ensuing years, his marriage fell apart, he suffered a nervous breakdown. he sought counseling in the 1980's, gave up drinking and remarried. still, the nightmares continued. he says he couldn't talk about the massacre until 2001 or 2002, when he finally told his psychiatrist. i remember when i told my shrink, he was speechless, miller said. i told my shrink, there's proof of this somewhere. something like that could never get away without proof. when we tracked down survivors in vietnam, we encountered similar reactions. one woman survived the mass carries a teenager because her mom shoved her out the secret back exit of a bunker as the american forces lined up outside the front. and called everybody to come out. her mom told her to run to the
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river, where her uncle would be waiting for her and carry her to safety. she made it across the river as she heard gunfire behind her. when she returned that evening, she found her entire family, all of her siblings, and her mother and other neighbors outside the bunker all killed. all dead. shot dead. when i interviewed her, she had thought about that day so often that she could still describe the exact positions of her family members, as she found them and pulled them out of the pile. and she described them with real tenderness. take me a moment to find that.
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i had a younger sister who was just three years old and my mom fell on top of her. she died from being knocked down and crushed under others, not from shooting and a brother of mine was carrying his younger brother on his back with they were shot and one bullet hit both of them. they died in exactly the same posture, one on the other's back. i was reluctant to make people there relive past horrors, but from the responses, it became quickly clear that these weren't distant memories, that these were things that they thought about every day. and a couple of them expressed comfort in knowing that an american hadn't forgot their lost relative. that this many years later, someone else remembered them. a social anthropologist from he edinburg has written two cultural books on vietnam, one
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is called "after the massacre" andy has a new one out called "ghosts of war in vietnam" and he explained that religious that digs in vietnam differentiates between those who die in combat or even from accident, and those who die as a result of gross injustice, such as a massacre. the victims of unjust deaths, such as atrocities, are believed to, in his words, perpetually reexperience the agony of violent death. when i read that, i thought of r.d. miller and you know, it struck me suddenly that the same could be said for the living. now, throughout this investigation, a question kept nagging at me. why did the army go through all this trouble collecting thousands of pages of record on war crime allegations, of numbing and naming each case, and keeping files on them. if it wasn't to prosecute the wrong doers, and from everything
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i could see in terms of what happened to these cases, that couldn't have been a top priority. there wasn't much evidence or effort to identify or address conditions or policies that might promote atrocities, so that couldn't be the reason, so then why go through all this effort? there was this incredible collection of records, that told us so much about what happens in war, and what causes a war crimes. so -- but no evidence of the army ever doing anything with it. so why did they go through all of the effort? and that's what i wanted to ask a former pentagon officer whose name appears on many of the status reports, the monthly status reports that went up the chain of command. but he refused to pick up the phone. he called him several times, he had, you know, a voice machine, not voice mail, so you know, he may have been able to listen to me calling, didn't pick up.
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i tried from different phones in case he had, you know, i.d., caller i.d., and finally i left a pestage that just said, if you don't want me to -- if you don't want to talk to me, just let me know, because i don't want to harass you. i really do have to keep trying to talk to you, because your name is on so many of these records, so if you don't want to talk, just call me and let me know. he never called back. so i thought, he's not calling back, might be because he knows he'll talk if he picks up the phone. so i thought it would be worth my while to hop on a plane and fly out and fog on his door. and that's what i did. only to discover that with i got to his subdivision in washington state, it was a gated community. not only surrounded by a locked fence, but also by a razor sharp
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hedge row and a moat. i sat out there for a while hoping somebody would come out of the gate, and i could sneak in. i was an old lady, had a broken arm at the time, i thought i could get away with it. nobody was coming in and out. i had just a several hour window and i was quickly running out of time to talk to him. so i kind of looked around, noticed the depression under the fence at one placement kind of wiggled my way under, went along the moat, up on the bridge and made my way to his door. he was so surprised to see me at his door that he talked. what he told me was that as far as he knew, his monthly reports were compiled for no other reason than covering the army's rear. you see, international law requires the army, the military,
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our country, to investigate any allegation of a war crime. and after the milei massacre was exposed, after cy hirsch's expose, there was concern that some of the top officers in the army would be prosecuted for not investigating the war crimes, so this effort began to compile records, to make sure that everyone was investigated, even before the investigation, so if the press were called, they would be told, yes, we heard about that allegation and it's under investigation. so they kept paperwork showing what they had done. to cover their rears. i tracked down the person whose day-to-day responsibility was to name the cases, to number them, and to put them away. he was now -- he's a preparer, in oklahoma, the end of the
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trail of tears. and i asked him about the files. i asked, why is the army never publicly acknowledged many of the cases in the files, or the results of investigations that confirm the allegations? he explains that the army released information only when necessary, only to satisfy an inquiry from the media or a member of congress about a particular allegation. i believe that the allegations that you have seen were for official use only, that means we were following the president's orders to keep the army off the front page. we can't ignore the allegations, but at the same time, we don't want them to receive undo, undeserved attention or will be helping the enemy. i ask about the army's failure to hole many soldiers and officers accountable in the confirmed cases. the united states' obligations included not only investigating war crimes but punishing
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perpetrators. i know there were considerably more allegations tan convictions he says, but the decisions to court-martial and convict are up to individual commanders and the jury. army leaders did what they could, within their power to meet their obligations. under the law and to repair the army's reputation, he says. what did the army do with the cases after he had collected and numbered them and alerted higherups to potentially troublesome ones? generally no action was taken, shopper says. what happened to the files then he? i suppose they ended up in the reservoir of official documents that no longer have viability. i have to admit that when nick first approached me about the records, i was reluctant to launch an investigation. i had a hard time justifying investing my time and the "l.a. times" resources in a war from decades ago, when we were in iraq and afghanistan and i didn't feel enough was being
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done on those wars, on those front. in one of my earliest interviews -- and also wondered, what good would come of reopening this chapter. in one of my earliest interviews, i stood in the yard of a battalion commander, who was flying overhead on the day of the massacre that jamie henry reported. he angrily told me to find a respectable job several times, and really tested my resolve, demanded to know what purpose reviving these cases would serve. what purpose will this serve, he kept saying. but ultimately, i was moved by the soldier's accounts in the files. and by the belief that the information they held about history and about war was essential. it was too important to keep under wraps. even this many years later. so i want to close with an e-mail from the medic, jamie henry, who reported the massacre, that i carried around with me for those moments of
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doubt. i started to wonder is it right to be going back and opening this up again. now we had spent about two days interviewing henry at his home in california about the massacre he reported. he went through the entire file, three and a half year file. that no one had ever told him about. he sent this e-mail about a week later. after you guys left, i was very distressed. i just sat in my chair physically shaking for about an hour. i was reliving all of that and the thought of bringing all of that up again, and going through awful of that all over again. and my mind just raced in a million directions all at the same time. fear was involved in a lot of it. when patty got up, that's his wife, she could see that i was in trouble. and she never really said anything, just handed me a handwritten note that said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that mat terp.
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martin luther king jr. i carried that in my pocket all week and read it often. that helped. it didn't take me back to being 23 years old and bullet-proof, but it helped me get through my thick head that what was right then is right now. :
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>> they were collected from army investigators. they were already in the file. >> after it was exposed. wasn't the exposure around 69? >> the end of 69. >> there is probably a wealth of other massacres and 63, onwards. >> here is what happened. before the exposé, the army only had record of 50 reports, i think the number is right that the number is in the book, but around 50 reports of atrocities. from the first, you know, four years of the war. actually it went back five years. after his exposé ran, a lot of soldiers came forward to report crimes that have occurred in the 1960s. so some of the allegations date back to 1960s before the meal i massacre came to light. but they occurred before the. like jimi hendrix.
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they just weren't reported. they were reported as he tried to but there was no official record made of them until they were we reported after sy hersh. makes sense? >> you mentioned very little of this was actually reported in the press at the time. maybe you can comment on -- i know, the conservative movement tried to claim that the press lost the war but i think a lot of the studies have shown that the press actually covered the work really from the u.s. side and did very little to document certainly the revolutionary movement, or even the scope of massacres. is that what you are pointing to? >> there was very little independent reporting done. war crime allegations during the vietnam war. what surprised me and going back and looking at this is how many allegations appeared, you know, stories inside newspapers, washington post, new york times.
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a couple day event in detroit in 1971. that got a little bit of coverage in detroit, not very much. but a lot of these cases were reported inside paper. people have very little memory of that. when you go back and look, and other people tried to tell the public this was happening, but a couple of things were going on. part of this is just speculation. i think people have a better memory of u.s. soldiers deaths than they do of vietnamese deaths. i think that is a problem with our culture. maybe all cultures. i don't know. so people i guess were paying attention to the front-page stories on u.s. soldiers dying, and those deaths mounting. because their own collective memory, even in the military, of the scope of atrocities that were going on india down. the other thing that you, after john kerry gave his testimony to
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the senate in 1971, remember, vietnam veterans against the war. after his testimony, the nixon administration, we now know, worked closely with another veterans group that eventually came the veterans, that's kind of the ring, the senate, that worked closely with them to put out a different story to the public. that these guys were liars and fabricators, and in fact, the army records don't show that they were liars. >> thank you. >> incidentally, you mentioned john kerry, you know as probably most of you recall in 2004, he was attacked by the swift boaters when he was running for president for his testimony in 1971, war crimes were a common occurrence in the non. and it was an effective attack that helped defeat him.
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but one of the people, one of the officers was part of a small group that collected these records in the pentagon is now a retired general, and a vocal opponent to the iraq war. in 2040 contacted the kerry campaign three times. he wanted to tell them that there was a large body of records that would support what he told the senate in 1971. but no one from the kerry campaign called him back. so didn't come out for another couple of years. other thoughts, comments, observations? you have to come up to the microphone. >> you mentioned just in terms of what factors from these records, because i teach a class on vietnam war here. i've done some of my own research soldiers on did not. and my sense of reading the literature is a lot of the literature emphasizes race,
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racism towards the vietnamese people as well is just the political context of a war in which majority of the population supported the revolutionary movement as well as perhaps the killer ratio. are there any other -- would you say the killer ratio stands out as to the fact shaping this, such a high level of atrocities in this war? >> you bring up a couple of real good points. wonders what was known as the miracle group. from, you know, basic training on, you know, soldiers were trained to think of the vietnamese as less than human work and while, you know, i talked to some retired commanders. commanders who complained that they had to really work hard to get u.s. soldiers to actually kill people. so part of their methodology was to dehumanize the vietnamese. but of course, you're dehumanizing an entire culture, entire population that doesn't
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establish between civilians and soldiers. and that was reinforced in the him by what happened to people, or what didn't happen to them when they harm the vietnamese. leading up to the massacre in the jamie henry reported in the months leading up to that, that company was involved in increasingly violent and sadistic it started out with the stabbing of paid for sport and then shooting a water buffalo for sport, and then it was a 14 year-old boy cross their path taken behind a rock and execute. and it was five women who crossed their paths, executed. a man thrown under a truck. all these things happened and nothing was done. there were no repercussions, nobody was even reprimanded. for doing it. and so the violence escalated. on the ground was reinforced. and even when people report marshaled and convicted, the
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sentences were very light. there are a lot of other policies that contributed. when in combination with, the pressure to produce high numbers of enemy body count combined really into the significant slaughter such as free fire zones, where they should excuse me a second. which essentially declared a swath of countryside as open season on anybody there. in theory, locals were told not to go there because it was now it was an off limits area. but sometimes that word never got to the. and other times, you know, that's -- is whether traditional undergrads and 40 grounds so they would go into peter pan and take their chances. that was another policy that certainly search and destroy, yeah, the mantra during the late 1960s with jamie henry's group
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going through vietnam that include slaughter as well. so there are a lot of, both his striking lack of leadership on the ground and really bad policies coming from above that led to civilian killings. >> my question is about what your research and your findings should teach us about how we are paying attention to the iraq war, or not paying attention to the iraq war. do you think government has learned anything from these types of issues? and what can we as citizens do about that? >> i've mentioned that there was an officer who was involved in compiling records act in the 1970s. retired brigadier general. at the time he kept them secret and he kept in secret afterwards because he believed that the army would learn from those
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lessons, lessons that they taught us. in his view, he did a lot of research on counterinsurgency operations in the 1960s. it was his belief that an egg counterinsurgency operation you are always going to have a high number of atrocities, because you are sending foreign forces into populated areas where it's, you know, hard for them to get their hands on the enemy, frustration builds in some of them will kill civilians. and even if you don't have, you know, are concerned about the laws and moral standing that results from that, it makes it almost -- it increases support for these insurgents and makes it very hard to win. well, his advice to the army back in the 1960s was, his conclusion from his research was that we shouldn't do anything more than advisory role. but of course that wasn't listened to back them.
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and so when the atrocities started crossing his desk, you know, a few years later, when he was on the task force he wasn't surprised. but he thought the army would learn its lessons from that, that would get out of vietnam and we would never do this again. when we went to war with iraq that's what he changed his mind and that's when you try to contact cary and, you know, told me that he now supported the public knowing this information, no war is really about because they need to know that because number one, it may convince us to enter into these kind of force only as a last resort. we survey didn't learn that lesson from. but once in war, certainly there was a lot of evidence that we didn't learn the lessons that we should have, that these records and other history, histories of counter insurgencies should have told us that on account was used, you know, in the first years of the war as a measure of success that we just read bob woodward just a piece of talked
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about bush wanting to know a body count, an enemy body count of how we were doing. free fire zones zone, while we don't work use that terminology, you see the indiscriminate use of force, that is a judgment on my part. the indiscriminate part. but you see air strikes and ground forces going in and killing civilians, you know, first claiming that they have killed the insurgents, the taliban, and then having to roll back and saying they are killing civilians. and we see the results of that. the same thing happened in the non-that turns the locals against us, in terms of a government that we are supporting. soap from fourth a moral and from a standpoint it is a bad strategy. on. >> i should mention one other thing. the media. and how much attention we are paying to atrocities. there was a winter soldiers form
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earlier, last year in washington, d.c., and there have been some around the country that have gotten all this no coverage, very similar, you know, soldiers, veterans coming for to talk about atrocities that they witnessed. very little attention paid to it. so the alternative media has been paying attention. the nation did some independent reporting interviewing soldiers after they came back, extensive reporting. salon.com, mark benjamin, outstanding work on that front on iraq and afghanistan. but very few. a very few doing it right now. maybe he will do that next year we will see. >> when you asked about why was the army keeping all of these records but not disclosing them, what occurred to me is, i think
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the well-known fact that serial killers keep souvenirs. and what that leads me to question is two things. the german army was notorious for conducting these kinds of activities during the second world war. do you know if the germany at the german army killed for atrocities? >> i believe they did, yes. >> okay. is it possible that the entire institution is insane? that the objective of force through military activity is simply insane. the whole organization, whole institution. not just a few individuals are basically surreal killers. >> you mentioned the germans.
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the first historian to look at these records and dive into them was a german historian. he has a book out, actually a book that came out last year. maybe it was late 2007. may be translated and available here later this year. but he was the first one in, and i called him and i asked them. first of all i wanted to translation in his book. i don't speak german, and i wanted to talk to him about his own impressions from the record and his conclusions were much the same as ours. is very much documentary based. he did go on interview a lot of people, but i asked him, the other thing i asked him why do you think a german would be the first one in? and he said it takes a generation, you know, before people are ready to look honestly at what happened. in war. and it is just too fresh, to rot in the united states.
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it takes something from outside. he said we learned that in germany. it has taken generations to be able to sort what goes on. i hope it doesn't take that long. i hope that you know, we can have a civil national discussion, they say national discussion about what war is about and what we did, our conduct in the war in the non. so far it has been shouted down, you know, back in the 1970s it was shouted down, the people who alleged they were a atrocities were liars and fabricators. in the years since then, and other records are out there and from what i have heard back from some people, is that why are you writing about u.s. war crimes? the vietnamese didn't also. well, no, this body of record isn't about vietnam war crimes. it is about u.s. war crimes in the vietnam. we are accountable for our own actions. it is time. it is time to admit these things
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happened. >> do you think the history of atrocities by the u.s. military, how far does that go back? is that part of modern war? i think of wounded knee in the entire plains indian campaign by the u.s. military. >> i think that's early i haven't investigated. i have only investigated these war crime records. i haven't gone back, but certainly atrocities have been part of war. it is what war is about. we shouldn't hide that. >> that is my point. thank you. >> one of the things that we have learned from the vietnam war, specifically from the national vietnam veterans readjustment study, is that those soldiers who committed atrocities tend to have the most chronic and severe cases of
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ptsd. and i wonder whether that might somehow factor in to the difficulty with those people coming forward with getting reports that, you know, could substantiate, documents or might lead to documents. i guess i just wonder what their role of trauma is here, as you have been talking about, you know, needing to get outsiders to give us perspective on these matters. and the point that she makes there which is that we all have a need to forget. we can't keep, in front of our faces it's the sort of thing that is too overwhelming. we need in a sense a break from every once in a while there. i guess other to cut a separate point but in any case, the rule
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of chronic composition and producing difficulty for many of these people to talk with anybody, let alone to talk with investigative reporters who have dredged things up and can quite possibly make the symptoms worse. >> and i am not an expert on ptsd, but had read up on it on embarking on this. and there was a different pattern and interviewing people that i encountered in other investigations where i talked to, i get a hold of somebody who was a witness, or particularly this happened with witnesses, not so much as suspects. that followed a different pattern that i will go back to that in a second. when they come to the phone they would talk and open a. like i said, it was as if they'd been waiting for this phone call, you, and who was somebody who knew their secret. and they would talk for quite a
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while about it. and then i would follow up about a week later or so with some follow-up questions or to make sure i got things right. and wouldn't call back. and would go back for a few weeks. and fortunately i had time to wait. i thought well, they don't feel emotionally safe right now going back and revisiting it. but reopening that conversation i was acutely aware by the time we hung up i was leading them in a totally different emotional space that they had been in perhaps an decade. so i wanted to give them that kind of respectful space to decide when they were ready to talk to me. when they felt ready to talk to and all of them did. they eventually came back and talked. in many cases, you saw the pattern of, i think as you did with rd miller, you know, which is struggles with alcohol, marriage breakups, that sort of thing at and in his case, you
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know, he eventually recovered, but still grappling with nightmares that with the suspects, eventually, just about everybody that i called talk to me, eventually. and in that case i had to be more persistent than just with the witnesses. if the witnesses did want to talk again i had their sworn statements. i didn't need him to talk in order to know what happened, what their perspective was. but i felt with the suspects, you know, i was going to be writing about the. i really wanted them to know what the book was going to say. and so aside from wanting to know you know, how they would describe what happened and why it happened, i also felt this obligation to let them know ahead of time here is what the book is going to say. what do you have to say about it. and we did a two-part series in the l.a. times, and so i talked to some of them before as well. what was interesting about them is that their memory of
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precisely what happened, that they would own up to maybe, was much bigger than the witnesses. witnesses, i had her sworn statement in front of me. they hadn't seen those worn statements in 30 years from the days they signed in. and their memory smashes those sworn statements, you know, almost precisely. whereas when i talked to suspects, their memories were much worse. when i talked to the lieutenant who called the captain, captain said, you know, the lieutenant recruit people, opened fire. when i reach in the first time he just hung up on me. i tried several months later and said look, i know you don't want to talk, but just listen to what the other members of your company say happened that day. and i want you to know that that
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is what going to go in this piece. and so i through the whole litany of, you know, more than a dozen different sworn statements that described the massacre and his role in it. and at the end of it he said i don't doubt it happened. but then he said, but i don't remember. i have forgotten everything about vietnam. i played around a little bit. he had good memories of what happened before and after, but he claimed that he didn't remember. how could i challenge that? did he really not remember it, because of trauma, or did he just not want to talk about it? i can't judge that. i kind of leave it for readers to judge. and another real interesting case in the book was also involved in that same massacre was one of the men that was recruited. he was very young at the time. the youngest one recruiter to open fire, and he remember is to the point. uri members being recruited, but members of to the point of
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putting his site and seeing women and children, babies through his site. and he claims that he never opened fire. you know, witnesses say he did. you know, he had an importing, i think it was an importing, not a 16. not a subtle weapon as i point out in the book. but you know, he said that he didn't. he just couldn't pull the trigger. did he not pull the trigger? does he really believe he didn't pull the trigger and he did or is he just playing with a? i don't know. i can't tell. maybe psychologists could get a better read of what is going on there. but that's what i found freckly with suspects. their memories were not as sharp. at least the memories they would share with me. >> we have books in the back, it and if we could have used side entrance sign some of those if
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that is all right. we could continue conversations in the back. deb has agreed graciously to be available also to speak with students who may be here, but let's please give her a round of applause. [applause] >> thank you. >> this summer poteet is asking what are you reading? >> my summer reading, the first half of my summer reading is going to be to catch a. there are two books i haven't
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finished that i need to finish. one is the team of rivals by doris kearns goodwin. and the other is the andrew jackson book which i haven't cracked at a witches at home. to history books that i need to read, want to read and in one case need to finish. the third book that i want to read is written by a friend of mine, who used to work at dow jones which owns "the wall street journal." it is called restless genius. it is the story of a famous and very influential american journalist barney kilgore was the editor of a newspaper, "the wall street journal" for years and years who created the modern wall street journal. in many ways modern journalism. he has written a very interesting biography of the barney kilgore as a great journalist and a person who created much of what we think of as journalism in the 20th century. finally for fun, i want to read the rocket that fell to earth, the new book about roger clemens and how he sort of froze and thank to the drug controversy
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somewhat has fallen. >> to see more summer reading lists and other program information, visit our website at booktv.org. >> here is a look at some of the upcoming book fairs and festivals over the next few months.
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